Skijler – T-Minus One Month

I’m one month out from my departure — a one-way ticket to Paris. I’ve never been to France, yet here I go alone with nothing but a backpack and camera. I’ve arranged to stay in a hostel in the Montmartre neighborhood for three nights. I had to call the hostel and ask how to book my room, which has probably been the most nerve racking thing so far. Nerve racking because it revealed just how much I didn’t know how to say in French. I know how to debrouiller (a french word that is always hard to translate but basically means to get around), but I’m not going to just be debrouiller-ing. I’m going to be hiking nearly 1,000 miles across the French and Spanish countryside, following an ancient pilgrimage route known as the Camino de Santiago. And so what happens if the roof is leaking in a hostel and I need to ask for a bucket? I don’t know the word for bucket in either French or Spanish — okay now I do because I just looked them up in google translate. But still, I don’t know how to say chapstick, or room-service, or blister, or walking stick, or quantitative biostatistics. Anyway, I suppose that’s a large part of why I’m going: to learn all those words.

Another thing that worries me is the physical difficulty of this journey. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t hiked 1,000 miles before, and my feet don’t seem that excited about the prospect. I know I can do it — I am just trying to not think of the blisters (apparently cloque in French, God knows how I’m going to remember that). I’ve been going hiking about three times a week, and I am starting to understand how to pace myself and such, but closer to my departure I should be hiking every morning to prepare. We’ll see if that actually happens. Anyway, I’ve spent way too much time at REI and online researching the best gear, so hopefully I am as comfortable as I can be on the trail. I’m trying not to think of this as a get-fit-quick scheme, but hopefully I at least come out with some really nice calves when I return.

I think more importantly too, I have to consider the mental challenges of this journey. For most people my age there is college to buffer a transition into adulthood. And while I will still have four years at Duke, I will have to embark on this year independently. I’ll have to navigate living in a foreign country, speaking a new language, and taking responsibility over myself. I am ready, but I am not going to have the same support system that exists at a university, nor is there going to be the camaraderie that exists between freshman students as they figure out this new chapter in life. I am going to be in charge of myself — that’s both exciting and daunting. Anyway, see you in a year, Duke!